Here comes the flood. The Transport Department is planning to open up South Lantau roads to 50 non-resident vehicles and an extra 20 tourist coaches each weekday. According to this story in Sing Tao Daily on Monday, the department said it had come up with the proposal after “reassessing” the current closed road policy.
It doesn’t say what specifically was reassessed. But the government and its developer-centric advisory committee have made clear their determination to overturn decades of conservation and traffic management policies in their pursuit of a vision of “Lantau development” based on mass tourism. The 50-car limit seems to be a trial balloon.
Yet until recently even the Transport Department acknowledged that South Lantau roads were closed for conservation reasons. Lantau Confidential has reached out to the TD for explanation.
In the story an unnamed TD official (or officials) gave the following reasons:
- Response to demand from Hong Kong residents
- Lantau tourist industry “development”
- To encourage more people to go to Lantau
It makes no reference to traffic safety concerns, including those of Lantau police, or of the views of local residents. An opinion poll by Save Lantau Alliance in June found 90% of South Lantau residents opposed the opening of the road.
The TD acknowledged the limitations on parking, but said it had conducted a survey which found that South Lantau had roughly 350 car parking spaces, and that private vehicle parking demand on weekdays was “fairly low.” Local residents may wonder what kind of survey could have concluded that Pui O, Ngong Ping and Tong Fuk “all have many private parking spaces that aren’t being used.”
The TD official goes on to say that weekday visitors can “stop over” in Mui Wo, where even the footpaths have been parked out, or Tai O, where parking space is equally non-existent. He or she admits that if “parking capacity is insufficient, causes violations or is inconvenient for residents,” then the quota will be reduced. But the department doesn’t think this will happen because most tourist traffic is on the weekend and public holidays, not during the week.
The official makes similar points about tourist coaches, where the current quota of 30 has been hiked to 50. As with the private vehicles, the TD has made no preparation for accommodate this sudden influx. It said the number of coach parking bays had been increased from 33 to 48 since in 2009.
Note that this is still only a proposal. The department has not made a final decision and is surely aware of the low level of local support. It is not too late for Lantau residents to object to this.